Category Archives: The Authorship of Hebrews

Introducing Scripture Quotes in Hebrews

[12/26/2016] 1:05 PM Man … I still can’t believe I just read this today. A commentator repeats an age-old argument against the Pauline authorship of Hebrews by noting how Paul quotes the Old Testament: “Scripture says” or “It is written.” Then he goes on to state, “The letter [of Hebrews] never uses these expressions but usually puts a simple “It says,” without giving the subject (cf. Heb 1:6, 7; 5:6; 8:8, 13; 10:5; 12:26).”

Hmm. I wrote a big ol’ book (38 pages) about this subject and guess what? The “It says/He says” method of introducing Old Testament quotations in Hebrews is paralleled in — are you ready? — 1 Cor 6:16; 15:27; 2 Cor 6:2; Gal 3:16; Eph 4:8 and 5:14. You can find all of this on p. 5 of my book The Authorship of Hebrews: The Case for Paul. Look up these verses for yourself if you like. On the same page of my book, in footnote 12, you will also find this quote from volume 4 of Nigel Turner’s A Grammar of New Testament Greek: “This impersonal use of ‘he says’ is quite rabbinical and also Pauline ….”

My only suggestion is that you, as a reader, need to examine carefully everything you read, regardless of who the author is. The includes, of course, anything I write. Follow the evidence wherever it leads. And as for us authors, let’s try our best to set aside bogus appeals to data meant to shut down debate. I promise to work harder at this myself.

(From Dave Black Online. Used by permission. David Alan Black is the author of The Authorship of Hebrews: The Case for Paul.)

Active Participants Wanted

5:42 PM Since I have just published another book (The Authorship of Hebrews), I thought I would share with you few thoughts on the writing and reading of books:

1) The books I write are getting shorter and shorter. “Less is more” is becoming more of a reality and less of an old truism for me. You don’t need to know everything about a subject to understand it. In fact, innumerable facts are often a detriment to understanding. Above all, I try to avoid writing in such a way that might imply that thinking on the part of the reader is unnecessary.

2) I want my readers to become active participants in my book’s ideas. Some will read for information. “What does Dave think about this or that?” Others will read more for their own personal understanding of the subject, with the hope that something they read will shine some light on the facts they already know. Some of us are so guilty of abecedarian ignorance that we have to start with the simple ABCs. Our goal is simply information. Eventually, I hope we can read books preeminently for the sake of understanding.

3) Whenever I read a new book I always read it through from beginning to end in one sitting and without pondering the things I don’t understand. I find I have a much better chance of understanding a book on second reading after I’ve already gained a bird’s-eye-view of its contents.

4) As for speed of reading, my golden rule is a simple one. I read a book no more quickly than I can read it with satisfaction and comprehension. I can generally skim a book on my first reading. This gives me some idea of its form and structure. I am thus prepared to read it well the second time around. I can always tell whether a book is a “good” book. A good book is one that is always over my head in some sense. It forces me to think, to stretch, and to pull myself up to its level.

5) As for marking in books, I do so religiously. My pen is my best friend in reading a new book. Whether underlining major points or placing an asterisk in the margin or circling key words and phrases, I try to read consciously and interactively.

6) My new book, like most works of non-fiction, is chronotopical. It deals with things as they exist or occur in a particular time and place (hence the term “chronotopical,” from the Greek words for time and place). My book is the product of my own personal history. It traces how my thinking has evolved since I first began teaching in 1976. I have tried to write in a way that exhibits unity, clarity, and coherence. Whenever possible I have told the reader what the questions are and the answers that are the fruits of my own study. But the reader must not expect me to do the job all by myself. He or she must meet me halfway. My goal is a “meeting of the minds,” a reciprocal benefit that depends on the willingness of both reader and writer to work together.

7) Finally, the heart of my new book lies in the major affirmations and denials I am making, and the reasons I give for so doing. You may or may not agree with all of my propositions, but I hope you will not miss their meaning. I think I’m simply verbalizing what we all know to be true, though I might perhaps state things in an unconventional way. “2 + 2 = 4” and “4 – 2 = 2” are different notations for the same arithmetic relationship — the relationship of 4 as double of 2, or 2 as half of 4. The same conclusion is forced upon us regardless of the proposition being made.

In the end, the best readers are the most critical. They make up their own minds on the matters the author has discussed. I invite you to read my latest book and engage me in these issues.

(For the Kindle version of the book, go here.)

(From Dave Black Online. Used by permission. David Alan Black is the author of The Authorship of Hebrews: The Case for Paul.)

Reflection on Hypotheses

9:16 AM Say, got a minute for some reflection? Today I want to think out loud with you about “hypotheses.” As a proponent of the Pauline authorship of Hebrews, all I can do is offer a hypothesis that I believe is consistent with the facts. This does not, of course, prove my hypothesis. That is a different matter altogether. Just because something is possible or even plausible does not make it probable. How, then, do I deal with this issue? You’ll have to wait for the published book to see. All I can say here is that an author who defends a hypothesis must be prepared to be judged by the evidence. The estimation of probability is left completely to the reader. The one thing readers must not do, however, is prejudge the matter. Snap judgments are never acceptable. It is a correct critical judgment we are after.

This is true even when a scientific test is applied, say, to the Synoptic Problem. In this case, we know two things: 1) There is abundant documentary evidence from the earliest centuries that Matthew is our first canonical Gospel; and 2) a critical examination of it discloses a high probability of truth. It is therefore not sufficient merely to dismiss this evidence as naive. To put it differently, in trying to discredit this “second-hand” knowledge, the skeptic assumes that he or she knows better than, say, an Origen or a Eusebius. Such a conclusion causes the devil’s advocate to point out the utter subjectivity of that position. (See the discussion in my Why Four Gospels? The Historical Origins of the Gospels.) The trouble here is an unexpressed antihistorical bias that vitiates an objective consideration of the data. Who among us has never violated the elementary canon of historiography by neglecting contrary evidence?

In short, I submit that my work on Hebrews is a closely-argued hypothesis. But it remains a hypothesis. At no time should the reader take a vacation from healthy skepticism. The one thing I hope you will not do is prejudge the matter.

(From Dave Black Online, August 17, 2013. Used by permission.)